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Upper Lake Mary Watershed Monitoring Project

Climate Monitoring

The Utilities Division is interested in snowpack and summer precipitation patterns. This past winter season was an El Nino pattern — but the moisture stayed north of Arizona. This graph shows a shift from the historical annual rain-to-snow relationship. In the last 3 of 15 water years, our annual precipitation has gone from about 50%–70% rain to 80% rain, with only 20% of all precipitation falling as snow. Production staff have seen significant runoff into Upper Lake Mary when rain falls on snowpack. A warming climate is a concern for many Southwestern water providers that rely on winter snowpack to recharge their surface supplies. Utilities will incorporate this and other climate scenario planning into its next Water Resources Master Plan.

Rain - Snow Graph Climate Table


In 2015, the Utilities Division partnered with the Salt River Project (SRP) to provide ongoing operations, maintenance, and data collection for six flowtography sites within the 4FRI (Four Forests Restoration Initiative) area of the Upper Lake Mary Watershed. Flowtography uses a game camera mounted in a tree to take one photo every 15 minutes of a graduated rebar stake in the center of a channel. The channel has been surveyed for slope, cross-sectional area, and roughness such that flow can be calculated using Manning’s equation. The height of water on the stream gage is recorded from photographs taken during flow events. The flow data will serve as a baseline for comparison with data collected after forest treatments. They will help us determine whether forest treatment and maintenance affect surface water runoff into Upper Lake Mary.

The six sites were installed in November 2014. Additional sites will be installed at the Newman Canyon USGS gage site and Upper Lake Mary to monitor water levels.

Watch how Flagstaff uses flowtography to preserve the water supply | Read an Arizona Daily Sun article about flowtography.

LM-2L photo
LM-2L on March 2, 2015
LM-3L photo
LM-3L on March 2, 2015
LM-2L hydrograph
Hydrograph, February to March 2015
LM-3L hydrograph
Hydrograph, February to March 2015

Newman Canyon

Upper and Lower WatershedThe Utilities Division and two other groups — the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Plan Project and the Lake Mary Walnut Canyon Technical Advisory Committee — partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to install a flow gage and sediment sampler in Newman Canyon last year. Newman Canyon is the largest single contributing tributary to Upper Lake Mary. The image on the right displays:

  • Sub-watersheds of the Walnut Creek Watershed
  • Watersheds that are part of the Upper Lake Mary Watershed Monitoring Project and NAU Paired Watershed Study
  • USGS Newman Canyon Gage and Sediment Sampler

The first full year of data is provided below.

View sediment data | View stream gage data

Newman hydrograph Newman hydrograph

Mouth of Newman Canyon
Mouth of Newman Canyon
Upper Lake Mary
Frozen water near stream gage
Water frozen at the site of the
stream gage
Aerial View of Newman Canyon
Aerial View of Newman Canyon